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From the Couch: Futurama

In the past decade, both Family Guy and Futurama were cancelled by Fox, then brought back due to strong ratings on cable and high DVD sales. While Family Guy has enjoyed high ratings since its return, its quality has steadily decreased, becoming too reliant on nothing more than crude jokes for half an hour.

The same can’t be said for the excellent Futurama, which has seen some incredible episodes since coming back to the airwaves on Comedy Central in 2010. None may have shown the series’ creativity and gift of comedy better than last week’s season finale, “Reincarnation.”

The episode, which tells three separate stories with an overarching plot, features three different styles of animation: an old-fashioned 1920s style film in black and white, an 8-bit video game reminiscent of the original Nintendo and Japanese anime.

Animation has always been popular due to its ability to show imaginative and fantastic new ideas before those were capable of being produced in any sort of live action filmmaking. “Reincarnation” is a love letter to animation, showing the different methods that fun and exciting stories have been portrayed over the last century. Using the “three stories” episode formula (popularized by The Simpsons yearly Halloween specials) makes for an intelligent, witty and all-around fun episode.

Each story is built around a comet made of “Diamondium,” the hardest substance in the (fictional) universe. A love story, an existential crisis and war all come about from this comet, across three stories and three different styles of animation. The animation is beautiful and clearly done with respect for the style.

Futurama’s love of these different animation types is evident, and affectionately parodies each one with a number of in-jokes and references to the classics of each style. This episode is a must for any fan of animation, no matter the era.

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